The bushes, grasses, and land concerned on this all emit a vibrant and shining mild, and preach the profound and incomprehensible dharma which is countless. Trees and grasses, wall and fence expound and exalt the dharma for the sake of unusual individuals, sages, and all dwelling beings. Atypical individuals, sages, and all dwelling beings in flip preach and exalt the dharma for the sake of bushes, grasses, wall, and fence . . . (“Jijuyu Zanmai” by Eihei Dogen Zenji)
My workplace window seems out onto the temple vegetable patch, which for months has been a chaotic scene of weeds, raggedy kale vegetation, and the heaps of compost our garden volunteer deposited onto it earlier than Christmas. We’ve saved that means to supply it consideration, however different issues have taken precedence. This week my husband cleared it and unfold out the mounds of darkish, wealthy compost. It seems inviting, prepared for spring sowings.
Dogen tells us that bushes and grass, wall and fence, all expound and exalt the Dharma. How a lot Dharma is held within the soil of the vegetable patch, like minerals? What is that this naked patch of floor instructing me proper now? How is the Buddha lighting it up from inside, illuminating what must be illuminated?
Right here is my first instructing. The thought arises: all of the greens we plant this yr can have such quick lives. Their season is proscribed, similar to mine. I don’t wish to be a being with a restricted season. Components of me rail in opposition to the concept of struggling into fullness from a tiny seed, weathering drought and storms to get pleasure from a quick blossoming and fruiting earlier than fading and dissolving as soon as extra into the earth. And but, that is how it’s on this world of samsara. I’ve an extended season than most vegetation, and fewer than many bushes—seventy or eighty revolutions of the Earth if I’m fortunate. It feels too quick, and what a waste of all that vitality for the entire thing—my initiatives, my story, my flesh—to easily decay on the finish of all of it.
As I encounter the discomfort of this thought, the vegetable patch speaks to me. It jogs my memory that the fruit of my efforts won’t be misplaced, however recycled into contemporary expressions of the Dharma. Final yr’s potatoes fed our neighborhood right here, and contributed to their choices to the world. The outdated kale plant will dissolve into compost and contribute to extra kale, or possibly it is going to nourish a few of these shockingly orange nasturtiums. Perhaps a few of my books will reside into the many years past my lifespan, but when they don’t I can belief that my small form acts will go away a hint. We by no means actually know what good comes of the nice we do, however I belief that the residues of compassion accrete on the earth. So, sure, I nonetheless really feel an ache of self-protective loss, a sorrow concerning the finish of Satya, however I really feel simpler, a little bit extra relaxed.
What subsequent? The patch seems so naked, like a white web page. What’s going to we develop there? Turks’ squashes, with their wealthy buttery orange flesh, or fats bulbs of garlic? The ever-present and profligate courgette? We could strive runner beans once more, and combat the wind with our makeshift cane buildings? How a few season of wildflowers? What’s going to our favorites be this yr?
Does the Buddha have favorites? Would she place these completely different crops right into a scale of “good” to “dangerous?” Does the Buddha have a desire for squash over runner beans, or for fancy pom-pom dahlias over scraggly weeds? I don’t suppose so. I believe the Buddha desires every of us to develop from our seed into the plant we’re—the healthiest plant we will be within the circumstances of our lives.
I want to recollect this instructing as I typically nonetheless pressure to turn into quite a lot of plant that I’m not. I’d wish to be extra extroverted in order that my time with individuals feeds me moderately than drains me, however an extrovert just isn’t who I’m. I’d wish to have a larger capability for generosity, to have the ability to give extra freely of my time, of sensible assist, however I’ve acquired what I’ve acquired. I do know that I bear completely different sorts of fruit, and that others are glorious on the issues I lack. It’s a aid to recollect.
Another instructing? I can see some little bits of plastic amongst the clods of earth. They’re remnants of our meals compost—fragments that slipped in with the meals waste and that are protruding like sore thumbs. That is the unhappy legacy of the human race—micro-plastics clogging the oceans, getting into our meals chain, and choking wildlife. Chemical substances are poisoning the Earth. What’s the message for me right here? I’m all too conscious of the local weather and ecological disaster. Since my “massive awakening” a number of years in the past I’ve turn into deeply concerned in eco-activism and we additionally communicate concerning the Earth within the Buddhist apply we provide. Though, I’ve been avoiding articles and reviews about contemporary environmental horrors over the previous few months as a result of I don’t fairly have the abdomen for it.
Perhaps that is my last instructing, which I’m reluctant to simply accept. I can’t look away from the intense scraps of plastic, nevertheless exhausting I strive. They glint within the sunshine and show their permanence. I can see that it is part of my eco-activism to sometimes look at the items of plastic and bear in mind what we’ve finished and what we’re doing. It is part of my Dharma work to grieve for the Earth, and to really feel indignant on her behalf. This emotional work transmutes into motion—I can take it with me after I do my every day vigil, after I meet with different eco-activist Buddhists, and after I become involved in my subsequent act of civil disobedience. The plastic jogs my memory to not look away.
I’m ending this piece by bowing to the vegetable patch, my smart instructor. I’m grateful for the profound and incomprehensible Dharma it presents; I do know that I’ll by no means unravel this Dharma, or have the ability to pin it into phrases. The Dharma is inestimably larger than me. I’m additionally grateful for the few classes I’ve taken from it in the present day, like studying some primary including up and subtracting from a genius mathematician. I hope I can cross a few of this Dharma on. Perhaps to the robin sitting on the bench, possibly to the person subsequent to me within the grocery store queue, possibly to the vegetable patch itself. We proceed our dance—one minute absorbing the sunshine, and the subsequent reflecting it.
“Jijuyu Zanmai” by Eihei Dogen Zenji in Abe, Masao. 2010. The Coronary heart of Dogen’s Shobogenzo. Albany, NY: State College of New York Press.